The world's first Variable Density TBM is launched as tunnelling gets under way on the US$2.65 billion 9.5km underground section of the Klang Valley MRT between Sungai Buloh and Kajang in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Aerial view of Cochrane job site
Two Herrenknecht VDTBMs and back up
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak officially launched the first of two innovative Herrenknecht machines that will excavate northwards from the Cochrane site for a 1.2km drive towards Pasar Rakyat Station. The Variable Density TBM (VD-TBM), one of six specially developed jointly by MRT Corp's underground contractor MMC Gamuda and Herrenknecht to cope with the karstic Kuala Lumpur Limestone Formation, began its drive last Thursday (May 30).
To mark the launch the Prime Minister pressed a button at a console that was erected next to the machine at the bottom of the 30m deep launch shaft. He was accompanied by MRT Corp Chairman Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, MRT Corp Chief Executive Officer Dato' Azhar Abdul Hamid, MRT Corp Project Director Marcus Karakashian, and Gamuda Ground Managing Director Dato' Lin Yun Ling.
The Malaysian Prime Minister said: "Once completed, the project will benefit the people at large for generations to come. This success is a good example of Malaysia being a pioneer in the highly specialised field of tunnel construction. Tunnel construction is an industry that will grow in the future and it is not impossible that Malaysia will be a leaders in this high-tech engineering specialism globally."
In total, four VD-TBMs will be launched from the Cochrane job site - once the northbound TBMs are away work will begin assembling the next two machines, which will excavate 1.3km southwards to the Maluri portal where the line will continue along an elevated alignment towards Kajang.
The Malaysian Prime Minister powers up the VD-TBM
Officials gather in the Cochrane shaft
A total of 10 TBMs will be used in the project - six VD-TBMs from Herrenknecht and four EPBMs manufactured by China Railways Tunnelling Equipment Company (CREC). CREC manufactured 36 machines for the Chinese domestic tunnel market last year (2012), but this is the first time the company has made inroads into the global tunnelling industry outside China, after several failed attempts to gain a foothold in Singapore. It hopes that success for its machines in Malaysia will open up a global market for its TBMs.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Government is awaiting a proposal from the Land Public Transportation Commission (SPAD) for a second MRT line. At the launch ceremony MRT Corp Chief Executive Officer Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid told reporters that once the proposal is received and approved, the Government will officially announce it at an appropriate time, taking into consideration the country's financial and technical capabilities.
"We want to be strategic. We want to make sure that the timing of the construction of Line 2 is effective, and we want to make sure that we have the resources, especially the machines and people, to carry out the work," he said.
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